UPDATE February 28, 2023: Eugene Thompson, 19, was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on Feb. 23, on a felony count of robbery and a felony hate crime charge; more here.
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Eugene Thompson, also known as Michael Stewart, used antisemitic language during a robbery and attack that left the victim unconscious Wednesday at a Giant grocery store in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, Maryland, Police said in a news release. Thompson was arrested and charged with assault and robbery. The State Attorney’s Office says they are exploring hate crime charges.
The incident comes amid a wave of antisemitic activity in Montgomery County, including four incidents of graffiti over the past two weeks at Montgomery County Public Schools, the deposit of antisemitic flyers at homes Saturday night in Kensington, harassing emails sent in December to Walt Whitman High School staff, defacement of the Whitman sign on the eve of Hanukkah, and a number of other episodes last fall.
According to charging documents, a man was shopping when he saw Thompson and a group of other men inside the store throwing fruit and other grocery items at customers in the store, as well as stealing donuts from the display case.
When the man asked them to stop, the group surrounded him, and an argument ensued, according to charging documents. At some point, the victim unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a Star of David necklace and pulled out a pen to prevent the men from assaulting him, according to charging documents.
The documents allege Thompson noticed the necklace and put his hands up in a fighting stance. Thompson used antisemitic language against the victim and physically assaulted him, police stated.
According to charging documents, the victim stated that when he was being beaten up, he heard members of the group yell, “Yeah, do it for Kanye!,” although he wasn’t sure if Thompson also said those comments. The man believed the group’s statements were referring to celebrity rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West), who has made antisemitic remarks in recent months and been hosted by former President Donald Trump.
The victim lost consciousness, and the group left the store, according to the release. The victim’s keys were also taken after the assault.
Officers from the 6th District and Montgomery County Fire Rescue Services treated the victim on the scene. He was taken to a hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Thompson was charged with first-degree assault and strong-arm robbery-related charges and is being held without bond.
According to Lauren DeMarco, director of public affairs at the State’s Attorney’s Office, the case is currently pending trial and is under review. “We take hate crimes very seriously, and hate has no place in Montgomery County. If there is evidence that a hate crime occurred, we will prosecute it as such,” DeMarco stated in an email to Bethesda Beat.
In November, the County Council unanimously passed a resolution to address and combat antisemitism. It affirmed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.